I hope you’ve all seen this delightfully miscontstruing review of Jennifer Quist’s Love Letters of the Angels of Death. Generally, I’m happy to let wrongheadedness do its own thing, but a couple points seem to demand rebuttal and Deseret News hasn’t written back regarding my kind offer to do so in their pages.
[Quote one] In “Love Letters of the Angels of Death,” Jennifer Quist tries her hand at an unusual writing style—sort of a first person, multiple voices style that is at best, confusing and at worst, quite frustrating. . . . In every case there is a sense of loss, anger and distance from the actual pain. It’s like approaching the situation with a 10-foot pole in hand.
Now, far be it from me from knocking a newswriter from whipping out a tried-and-true classic cliche (I was a newspaperman once—it’s cool—it’s part of our tradition), but I do think it’s important that I take a moment to present a bit of skepticism that essentially eavesdropping upon (one solitary speaker who is part of) an intimate conversation between a husband and wife as they discuss important, personal topics is anything like “approaching the situation with a 10-foot pole.” I should get real here and admit I don’t eavesdrop upon other couples’ intimate conversations as often as I would like, but I’ve never spied upon such personal moments and thought people were too far away, if you know what I mean. I mean—I guess I shouldn’t just start judging other people “confusion” or “frustration” (and undoubtedly intimacy can be poorly done), but I just can’t see how this novel’s point of view is anything like a 10-foot pole.
But I suppose you had a tight word count and couldn’t provide any examples of the novel’s tenfootpoleness. Newspapers, amirite?
[Quote two] This is clearly not a book about death from the perspective of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which the author is a member. . . . There’s not much about eternal life or hope or even faith in God.
This bit I actually find rather disturbing. Now, I’m sure reviewer Sharon Haddock is a lovely person, but how does that give her permission to unilaterally define “the perspective of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”? (Although, clearly, the word “clearly” is the most egregious bit of hubris here.) As far as I can tell from Buzzfeed personality quizzes, I’m an active Mormon with almost forty years of experience in two nations (and three states in my current one, including Utah, yall). And while, granted, I haven’t worked seventeen years for the Deseret News, I do think I have sufficient LDS ethos when I blurble in confusion a bit and say what the heckerino do you mean there’s not much about eternal life or hope or even faith in God in Love Letters? That is, I know you were “confused,” but how did you miss all the stuff about eternal life and hope and even faith in God? Do you need it in neon before you recognize it?
Sorry. That was rude. I certainly don’t want to come off like, I don’t know, I get to define the perspective of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or am the sole proprietor of literary exegesis or anything like that. Can you imagine?
At this point, Theric was going to make a point, but then the Obvious Fairy paid him a visit and said it would be insulting to his readers if he kept talking even one paragraph longer..